Tag Archives: Reef Bay Trail

Josie Gut

Josie Gut, Reef Bay Trail, St. John USVI
Josie Gut Horsemill Wall

JossieGutMap-9Josie Gut
The Reef Bay Trail passes through the old Josie Gut Estate about a half-mile from the trailhead at Centerline Road and goes right by the remains of the horsemill and the sugar factory.

The sugar works at Josie Gut, like the Reef Bay sugar works further down the trail date back to the early 19th century. The estate was owned and operated by the Hans Henrik Berg from the 1820s until his death in 1862. Berg served as governor of the Danish West Indies in 1848 and again from 1853 -1862.

Jossie Gut is also significant for using a surface water collecting and distributing system, the remains of which still exist on the opposite side of the trail from the horse mill.

The horsemill lies on a circular platform 65 feet in diameter. It is supported on the lower side by a 16-feet high stone retaining wall, which has a small storage room built into it. The upper side of the horsemill  is cut into the hillside and can be seen on the other side of the trail.

The remains of the Josie Gut sugar factory lie just below the horsemill. It was built almost entirely out of native stone, with the exception of bricks, used to line the doors and windows and the buildings corners.

The factory is T-shaped. The stem part of the T ends just three feet from the horsemill wall. This part of the factory was single-storied and housed the boiling house. The firing trench can be seen on the back or downhill side of the wall.

The top of the T contained the storage and curing rooms. Two remains of two staircases can still be seen.

Dam and Cistern
On the other side of the trail above the horsemill are the remains of a dam and cistern including a sluice way and gutter that led to the cistern

Ox Pound
North of the factory (up the trail and on the other side of the gut) you can still see what’s left of the old ox pound and two stone buildings.

St. John Live Music Schedule

Monday 3/16

Aqua Bistro
Matt Mirkut

Beach Bar
Buddha Council

Open Mic
4:30 – 6:30

Cruz Bay Landing
Chris Carsel

Inn at Tamarind Court
Quest Theory

Shipwreck Landing
Dave Gerard

Virgin Fire
Mark Wallace & Broheem
6:00 – 9:00

See Weekly Schedule


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St. John Trails: Petroglyph Waterfall

petroglyps trail st john usvi
Petroglyphs Waterfall - photo by Yelena Rogers

Petroglyph Trail, St. John US Virgin Islands


Despite the heavy rains, the Reef Bay Trail for the most part remained in fairly good condition, at least up to the Petroglyph and Lameshur Bay intersections.

The use of strategically placed stone culverts to deflect the water to the side of the trail and thus preventing the erosion that would be caused if the water just was allowed to run down the trail, did their jobs well.

This is not to say that you didn’t have to cross some rapidly running guts that were flowing over the trail.

Petroglyph Waterfalls

It was definitely worth the effort as the Petroglyph waterfall was spectacular!

Upper Falls

It was so good that I decided to brave the steep, muddy, slippery path that leads to the top of the falls and to the bottom of another waterfall that appeared to be about twice the height of the Petroglyph Falls.

Video of waterfall located just above the Petroglyph Falls

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St. John Virgin Islands Trails: New Cinnamon Bay Trail Overlook

St. John Trails: Cinnamon Bay Trail Overlook
View from new overlook on the Cinnamon Bay Trail
New Cinnamon Bay Overlook
view to the east

There’s something new to view for hikers on the Cinnamon Bay Trail.

Jeff Chabot group leader and volunteers working with the Appalachian Mountain Club in a cooperative venture with the Virgin Islands National Park and Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park have cleared an overlook along the trail, with views extending from Jost Van Dyke to St. Thomas and the northwestern cays.

Some years ago there was an overlook higher up on the trail near the top, which has long since overgrown.

The trail crew did an excellent job creating this new overlook. The view is spectacular!

Other overlooks that have now been cleared are the Lind Point Battery Overlook,  at the bench almost to the top of Caneel Hill on the Caneel Hill Trail, one on the Bordeaux Mountain Trail and another on the Lameshur Bay Trail.

We’ll be posting photos of these overlooks shortly…

Soon come… one on the Reef Bay Trail, the Francis Bay Salt Pond and two on the Johnny Horn Trail….

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Interesting Visitors: St. John Virgin Islands (USVI)

Seiko da Grindelwald in Miami
"Seiko da Grindelwald"

Yellow Submarine comes to St. John
by Gerald Singer SeeStJohn.com
Back in January of 1995, I was returning from an agricultural fair on Jost Van Dyke and pulling into the Cruz Bay Harbor, and came alongside what could best be described a little yellow submarine, totally enclosed and very low to the water, with the exception of a small covered cockpit that rising to about three feet above the waterline with plexiglass portholes and an overhead hatch. Several flags flew from two short masts and on the hull, in large red lettering was the name “Seiko da Grindelwald.”

Standing up in the cockpit was an Asian looking man, with a goatee, wearing a blue woolen watch cap and smoking a pipe.

The Seiko da Grindelwald in Cruz Bay, St. John
The Seiko da Grindelwald in Cruz Bay, St. John

Now St. John is a place where you meet a whole lot of interesting people, and this guy was bound to be one of them. My curiosity piqued, I pulled alongside, greeting him and asked where he came from.

“Switzerland,” he answered.

Now that certainly was interesting. I presented him with a stalk of sugar cane and some of the native fruits I had bought at the Jost Van Dyke and we arranged to meet later on at Chilly Billy’s so he could tell me his story.

The Story
Originally from Japan, he worked for the Canon Corporation, a job that enabled him to travel to many places in the world. On a trip to Switzerland, he fell in love and married a Swiss woman who own and managed a hotel in Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps. It was a famous hotel that had been around since 1885, but was starting to fall into a state of decline. Together they put the hotel back on track, fixing it up and implementing a marketing plan that brought many guests from Japan.

Seiko da Grindelwald
His name was Seiko Nakajima, but upon adopting and falling in love with the town of Grindelwald as his home he changed it to Seiko da Grindelwald. Seiko now knows more about the history, culture, back roads and trail of Grindelwald than most of its native inhabitants. This is something I could relate to having adopted St. John as my home and falling in love with it.

Anyway, sometime early in 1994, Seiko saw the movie Yentl with Barbara Streisand and was inspired by the line “nothing is impossible.” Sometime after pondering this thought, Seiko, 61 years old at the time, came upon the idea of a “voyage of personal challenge and fulfillment.”

Seiko designed an ocean going, one of a kind, one man motor boat. He made models and tested them in his bathtub. He obtained sponsorship from the Tohatsu Outboard Company and within five months had built the boat which he planned to sail from Basel, Switzerland to Miami Florida for the Miami Boat show and then on to New York City and then back to Switzerland.

The Boat
The boat Seiko constructed holds one person, is 21 feet in length, with a five foot beam and a two foot draft, weighing 440 pounds empty and 1100 pounds fully loaded. Powered by a 2.5 horsepower Tohatsu outboard engine, it has a fuel capacity of 159 gallons of gasoline. He calculated that it would burn 7.4 gallons of fuel per day enabling him to travel 140 nautical miles per day with a total range of from 2,100 to 3,000 miles. The boat is watertight with the hatches closed and self righting in the event that it would capsize in rough seas.

There were three 2.5 horsepower outboards, one that only operated in forward gear, mounted inside the cabin was for ocean going. The second, mounted externally was for navigating within harbors and a third was stowed away as a spare, just in case.

Navigation was accomplished with a hand held GPS, some charts, a compass and an auto piolot. Carried aboard were some tools and spare parts, personal effects, food and water. The food consisted of a trail mix of dried fruits, grains and nuts, onions, apples and canned milk, which would be supplemented from time to time with raw fish he hoped to catch while underway.

He carried no books, no music and no VHS radio.

The Proposed Route
The Proposed Route

The Journey
Seiko launched the “Seiko da Grindelwald” in the Rhone River in Basel Switzerland on September 10, 1994 and before completing the first mile he had crashed into a bridge, scarring the bow of the boat. The damage was cosmetic and undaunted Seiko continued down the Rhone towards France and the Mediterranean Sea, then stopping at Corsica, Ibiza and Gibralta. Passing into the Atlantic, his next landfall was the Canary Islands and then on to Cape Verde where he met his wife and son.

Swiss Bureaucracy
Seiko’s journey was beginning to receive some publicity not only through the efforts of the Tohatsu Company, but also through the nature of the voyage itself.

It seems that someone at the Swiss Government, reading about the journey in a newspaper, realized that the nature of the registration and licensing of the “Seiko da Grindelwald” only permitted its use in inland waters. The small size of the vessel prevented it from having ocean going status. Switzerland is a place where everything is on time and everything goes by the book, so this departure from the norm needed to be rectified.

So it was that government officials got in touch with Seiko’s wife to inform her husband that due to these regulations Seiko would not be permittted to fly the Swiss flag and, furthermore, that if he attempted to sail the improperly registered vessel back to Switzerland, he would be refused entry.

Notwithstanding, Seiko was also informed that upon the successful completion of the voyage that government would be proud to display the “Seiko da Grindlewald” at the Swiss National Museum of Transportation in Lucerne, where it would join an exhibition of “firsts.”

Seiko complied. He took down the Swiss flag, changed his plans to sail back to Switzerland opting instead to ship the boat on a cargo vessel and continued on into the open Atlantic.

Spiritual Journey
According to Seiko, the trans-Atlantic crossing turned out to be a spiritual journey as well as a physical one, full of exciting and insightful discoveries. Never having a great fear of death, he had assumed that his life was his own, but during one particularly frightening storm at sea, he was driven to reflect on the very real possibility of his own death, he realized this not to be entirely true. His life also belonged to those who loved him, especially his wife and son, who would be sad if he were gone. His life belonged to them also. The enormity of the ocean, his solitude and the absence of distractions led him to reflect on the existence of God and the wonder of life.

“The journey is my life,” said Seiko.

Gerald and Seiko having lunch at Miss Lucys
Gerald and Seiko having lunch at Miss Lucy's

On to St. John
Seiko’s first stop after crossing the Atlantic was the island of Barbados. From there he headed up the island chain and on to St. John, which would be his last Caribbean port of call.

It was on St. John that Seiko provisioned the “Seiko da Grindelwald, topped off the gas tank, took care of customs formalities and prepared for the voyage across the Caribbean to Miami.

I offered to take him around St. John, before he continued on his way.

Seiko accepted the offer and we took a boat ride around the island on my boat at the time, which was quite a bit faster than Seiko’s vessel. We also drove around the island and had lunch at Miss Lucy’s restaurant in Coral Bay on the east end of St. John.

We hiked down to Reef Bay Trail to stopping at the Petroglyphs, the ruins of the sugar works and the Par Force estate house before walking back up again.

Seiko da Grindelwald arrive in NYC
Seiko da Grindelwald arrive in NYC

Miami, Annapolis and New York City
In letters and newspaper accounts, I was able to follow Seiko’s journey. He arrived in Miami and attended the boat show. From there he motored up the inland waterway to Annapolis Maryland, from where he went to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC in order to see the airplane flown by Charles Lindbergh in the first solo flight across the Atlantic.

Seiko reached New York City in May of 1995, eight months after leaving Basel.

Letter from Seiko April, 1996
Letter from Seiko April, 1996

In a letter I received from Seiko in April of 1996 he wrote, “From New York my boat  was shipped back to Europe and presented at the Dussledorf and Zurich boat shows. According to my wish it has now gone to the Swiss National Museum of Transportation in Lucerne where it will remain for the next thousand years, I hope!!!”

A book about the voyage
A book about the voyage

Back in Switzerland, Seiko wrote a book about his journey, which unfortunately I couldn’t read because it was written in Japanese.

Letter from Seiko, December 1997, Grindelwald Switzerland
Letter from Seiko, December 1997

Last Communication
In a letter I received from Seiko in December of 1997, Seiko oulined his plans for a new adventure: “…in two years time (age 65) I would like to go somewhere where there are no roads. Perhaps to Canada. I hope that I can find a good place which is far from any village…to be alone and to be by myself without any information…”

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Kayaking on St. John

Jacob and Gerald
Jacob and Gerald

It’s one of those rare rainy days on St. John and I mean rainy day. Rain all day rain, big rain, gut washing rain, cistern filling rain, that kind of rain. And this is a good day to write something on the blog, but my thoughts are rain thoughts and then I get this e-mail from Peter Langer:

“I was wondering if you have ever done or will consider doing an article on where the best places might be to kayak on St. John. I will be visiting with my own kayak and would like to explore on my own…”

Thank you Peter. I needed an idea.

First of all St. John is a wonderful place to kayak. The weather is generally good, the water is warm, the scenery is spectacular. You can use a traditional kayak or a sit on top variety. And there is really nothing like the kayak experience. You can glide noiselessly right next to the shoreline even if it’s reefy or shallow. Except for the splash of water dripping from your paddles, there’s no other sounds but those of nature, the surf, the birds and the wind. In short, everywhere on St. John is a wonderful place to kayak.

But the question was: where are the best places to kayak on St. John and this gave me some pause. The north shore has world class beach after world class beach, all easily accessible by kayak. You could put in at one beach, enjoy the paddle along the shoreline between beaches and put in at the next. You could check out some of the offshore cays, stop for a swim or snorkel or a snack.

But, not to take anything away from what would be an absolutely beautiful day of kayaking, you could also enjoy a similar experience in a small boat, or in many cases by car. So I’d prefer to choose a trip uniquely suited to kayaking, but to do this I’ll have to reveal a heretofore closely guarded secret: my favorite kayak itinerary.

At the risk of stating what will probably sound too obvious to actually write down, this trip would be better undertaken on a calm day than on a windy one. I’ll explain why later.

Klein Bay and Ditleff Point
Klein Bay and Ditleff Point

This paddle will begin at Klein Bay and take you to Genti Bay, where you can explore the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Mill.

After you put in at Klein Bay on the South Shore, paddle along the rocky shoreline to Ditleff Beach, where you may want to stop and take a swim or snorkel or at least a bit of rest before the major upwind part of the paddle.

From Ditleff, continue around Ditleff Point and you’ll be at the entrance to Fish Bay. This is a nice bay to explore, there are some small beaches on the western side, and mangroves on the east. But in the interest of time it probably would be better to just paddle across the mouth of the bay and round Cocolaba Cay, which would take you to Reef Bay, which is is almost completely protected by a long barrier reef.

Parrot Bay
Parrot Bay

Reef Bay contains three inner bays and this first one you come to will be Parrot Bay. This is a summer surfing beach. Wind generated south swells break over a series of coral heads. Depending on conditions the break may be gentle or not so gentle. I like to surf in, if the surf is relatively small. Turning over is a distinct possibility, however, so be prepared as far as protecting yourself and your cargo.

This is the main reason that I made the initial caveat about choosing a fairly calm day. But if the seas are too rough and you made it this far, you can paddle on the outside of the reef and come ashore where there is an opening in the reef at Little Reef bay.

Once you land on the beach at Parrot Bay, you’ll probably want to take a rest and enjoy this beautiful off the beaten track beach. Take a break and then continue your paddle inside the breaking surf, close to the beach. Rounding the red rocks at the end of the beach can be a bit hairy, but definitely doable.

You will now be in the shallow lagoon between the outer reef and the beach at Little Reef Bay. This is a unique spot to be, inaccessible to all but the most intrepid human beings, such as bonefishermen. The lagoon is very shallow so proceed cautiously so as not to disturb the environment. You will very likely encounter small sharks and barracudas visible in the shallows. and herons and egrets on shore

Reef Bay Sugar Mill
Reef Bay Sugar Mill

Continue on to the end of the beach, where you can either come ashore and utilize a walking path to access the Reef Bay Sugar Mill ruins or continue to the sugar mill by paddling to the next beach at Genti Bay and coming ashore there.

Explore the ruins, or, if you have the energy, take a walk to the petroglyphs. The trip back is downwind and much easier than the paddle there. I would recommend taking the offshore route back to Klein Bay.

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